Ancestors of today's greyhounds are depicted in cave drawings and a variety of artifacts dating back as long as 8,000 years ago. Once the dog of royalty, greyhounds are emerging as popular pets across all economic classes--and rightfully so. They are sweet, gorgeous and funny. But, as with any dog, they are not the right choice for everyone, especially since most adoptable greyhounds now come from tracks where they were competitive racers. Show greyhounds, registered with the American Kennel Club, are becoming increasingly rare. Therefore, this article is for those considering adoption of a retired racing greyhound.
Tip #1 - Research the breed. Greyhounds are like other dogs in many ways, of course, but they also differ quite a lot, both temperamentally and physically. For instance, their low body fat makes them sensitive to extremes of temperature, and they must wear a coat or sweater when the weather is cold and they must live indoors. In terms of temperament, they are gentle and eager to please and don't respond well to harsh training methods, such hitting or shouting. In addition to online sources, two helpful books are "Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies" by Lee Livingood and "Adopting the Racing Greyhound" by Cynthia A. Branigan.
Tip #2 - Attend a greyhound meet-and-greet. Most greyhound adoption groups hold events that allow the public to meet greyhounds, so you can get a sense of their size and personalities. To find your closest adoption group,go to http://adopt-a-greyhound.org. If there is a dog track near where you live, you should be able to meet greyhounds at its adoption center. Race track information can be found at http://www.ngagreyhounds.com/trackInfo.asp.
Tip #3 - Ask yourself the questions most adoption agencies will ask: Are you OK with a dog that must be leashed at all times outdoors, except when in a completely fenced area? Greyhounds are sight hounds and, no matter how well trained, are susceptible to their strong prey drives. Are you looking for a guard dog? If so, a greyhound is not right for you as they are friendly to most everyone and seldom bark. Are you willing to take the time necessary to help your dog adapt to life in a home? Greyhounds, when adopted off the track, do not know how to climb stairs and must be taught. Are you looking for a playmate for your children or other pets? Greyhounds get along well with children but were not socialized with children or dogs other than greyhounds and will need close supervision at first, especially with very young children. Some greyhounds will never live well with cats or other small animals, though an adoption group can help you screen for dogs that don't have a strong prey drive.
Tip #4 - Prepare your house for life with a greyhound. You may want to carpet (or be asked to, depending on the adoption group) certain areas in your home, especially stairs, because these dogs have difficulty with smooth, hard surfaces. You will also need to provide soft bedding for the dog; greyhounds don't have much cushioning of their own. "Puppy proofing" your house is a smart idea as well, since greyhounds, having never lived in a home before, will take some time to housebreak and do not have a sense of what is theirs to chew on and what isn't.
Tip #5 - Contact your closest adoption agency, which will help you make the final determination of whether a greyhound is the right dog for you based on its own screening process and regulations.
By Yvonne Zipter
About the Author
Yvonne Zipter holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Vermont College and is the author of two nonfiction books, two poetry books, and numerous articles published in a variety of newspapers, newsletters, periodicals, and books. A writer for nearly 30 years now, she has received awards for her work and has taught creative writing classes.